Race Report: Royal Park Series – Regent’s Park 10K

Sunday July 23rd, 2017

It was 6:50am. I had overslept by around fifty minutes, woken only by my eldest daughter climbing into my wife and I’s bed for the week, as fortune would have it, which would mean I had little over an hour to get my porridge, cup of tea and a shower. My phone charger had somehow disconnected overnight, leading to a futile struggle to get it anywhere near a sustainable level for a big day ahead. And to compound matters, I had an urgent sit down pit stop, if you catch my drift, before I could run out to Mile End Road to see the 205 bus starting to arrive. My normally careful and meticulous race day preparations actually felt much more like my regular work commute, a situation I rarely feel at ease with. Thankfully, due to a red light, I made it across the road and onto the bus, and before long I decided to put my faith in the announcements on the bus over Google Maps to ensure I could look upon some of the sights and sounds of my journey to Regent’s Park Station and not nervously into the blue light abyss that radiates my eyes daily. And relax…

This quite urgent first morning of my holiday came about as they tend to do these days. Once my tickets were booked for the World Para Athletics Championships and once my arm had been twisted to make the trip a week long holiday and not a weekend break, I set about booking the AirBnB (a process which took a good few months), before searching for races in the area that I could get to. Lo and behold, I quickly found the Regent’s Park 10K, part of The Race Organiser’s Royal Parks Summer Series along with Hyde Park and Greenwich Park. Fitting neatly into my holiday plans, I wasted no time booking my entry and thus my entire preparations across spring and early summer were built around a long overdue tilt at my 10km PB of 37:15, set over three years before at the Epilepsy Action Bradford 10K.

Nothing seems small in London, and so the walk to the hub at Regent’s Park itself be considered. It was a good 15 minute walk from the bus stop to get to the park’s Hub, passing the lush green space, the beautiful lakes and waterfowl along the way. Still, the Hub was easy to find, and sitting atop a solitary mound in the middle of the park, and registration would be straightforward enough. With that done, I carried out my own warm up concluding with a kilometre jog round a roughly 250 metre circle of grass. This was all before the organisers gave their briefing and sent out a man named Richard to carry out an energetic warm-up just below the Hub. It wasn’t quite like that bloke who pumps everyone up for the Great North Run, but nobody could fault it for enthusiasm.


The route, by the way, was three laps of 3.3 (and a bit) kms each, and the profile described as flat. The course follows the Broad Walk section of the park, taking in the drinking fountain and visible sights of London Zoo, apparently. The weather was warming up slightly, the sun deciding to appear from behind the clouds, but thankfully it wasn’t too warm as to potentially be uncomfortable at all.

I gathered at the front of the start line, amongst a group of about three or four other, more local runners, discussing taking it easy to begin with. I’d have done well to take that on board. Yet as the race began, I set off quite briskly, establishing myself in second place behind a runner in yellow. I didn’t try to keep up with him, but that didn’t stop me running my first km in 3:21, which meant in all likelihood I was in for a hard time later on. Sure enough, my pace began to drop back, but I was still feeling OK at this point, despite noticing that there was the occasional hill on this course. Always food for thought for the speeding runner.

First lap, before hitting the sufferfest

I reached the end of the first lap marginally in second place, but would soon cede the place as I began struggling for pace and wondering to myself if I’d ever trust myself to pace a 10K properly. At this point, compared to the Halifax Harriers Summer Handicap 10K, my performance seemed worse, and I really felt myself having to push hard to stay within 4:00/km pace. Not even the peculiar sight of a camel in the zoo could fire me up, it seemed, and I was passed halfway round the lap to drop to fourth. Nonetheless, I tried my best to push, and by the end of the second lap, I had slower runners to use as markers. I then noticed my mile pace had moved back below 3:50, even 3:45, so I resolved myself to keep pushing. It seemed I had a bit in the tank yet.

I went into the third lap, with a part of me wondering if I should give up the PB attempt as I was passed by another runner to drop into fifth, occupying the final prize spot. Keeping an eye on my watch, I could see I was marginally on point, but I had no room for error or complacency. I pushed on as much as I could, using the downhills to try and increase my pace and fighting for every last gain. Into the last kilometre, and I sensed I needed a big push to get within my 37:15 from over three years ago. Roughly a 3:40 to be absolutely safe. I was absolutely straining at this point, putting in strides, getting closer and closer to the finish.

Finally I hit the final straight, and the clock was ticking on around 36:44. I had the time in my grasp, but not quite sub-37. I sprinted as fast as my tired legs would carry me, and crossed the line in fifth place, in a new personal best of 37:07. Finally, after injuries, setbacks, and tribulation, what started out as a rather lofty and ridiculous target of going sub-35 had resulted in an eight second improvement. I was more than happy to take that.

Post-race with the rest of the top 5 – in no particular order

I got my goody bag items (an organic energy drink, a bag of Hippeas snacks, some iced tea (which I didn’t enjoy), and a Nature Valley bar; plus the medal, along with a t-shirt which cost a tenner (I normally wouldn’t, but heck, I was on holiday), and handed in my prize ticket (which would later be posted and would turn out to be fluorescent yellow running socks!). I also had my photo taken with the other four runners who placed ahead, as you can see above.

With that, I got my bag, changed out of my sweaty gear and proceeded to walk back through the beautiful surrounds of Regent’s Park, before wandering past the large queues of Madame Tussaud’s back for my Tube train from Baker Street, heading off to enjoy the rest of my day at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Race over, I could now look ahead to the remainder of the year and indeed, the rest of my holiday!
Looking back on my race, I clearly still, after all this time, need to learn a good pacing strategy rather than going hell for leather from the start. I almost paid for it here. I sound harsh on myself, but I had placed a lot on this race as far as a personal best goes, one that I knew I was capable of. That said, I can be pleased with my resilience in the last third of the race to make sure I wouldn’t keep looking back to 2014 and wondering what might have been. I can certainly take heart from refusing to give way to the thoughts on the third lap to hold back and try again another day. Had I done that, I feel I’d have truly regretted everything about how I approached the race, but the lull around halfway certainly gave me that glimmer that I hung onto.

Additionally, while where I finished wasn’t a concern this time, the fifth place was yet another top 5 finish in what is turning out to be my most successful calendar year yet.

A big thank you to The Race Organiser for such a great event, in terms of overall value for money, superb organisation and a real friendly, encouraging atmosphere, and indeed in selecting beautiful locations such as this one within the capital and beyond for staging their races. Should I be back in London any other time than the Marathon, I’ll be sure to check out what The Race Organiser might have going on in the area, and I’d certainly recommend you give them your consideration too, particularly if you’re on a longer break as I was.

Cheers to Basil Thornton for the race photos – these can be viewed here.

Event results here

The Race Organiser website

Race Report: The Keith Midgley Summer Handicap 10km

Tuesday June 27th, 2017

11 months ago, I walked down to the track at Spring Hall, Halifax, during the summer break from my swimming lessons. I walked into the small building near the track, where a few of the Halifax Harriers were gathered. I came to do laps of the track – instead, I quickly got talked into doing a 10km race with them, as a paying guest. I didn’t need much convincing, and before I knew it, I’d zipped down the Hebble Trail, the Calder Hebble Navigation and back again, in a time of roughly 39 minutes, and returning back to the track to enjoy pie and peas with the club members. At the time, it was a surreal experience, but at the same time, a thoroughly pleasant one, and one that eventually lead to me coming back around two months ago to initially trial, and finally sign up for the Halifax Harriers proper.

The Summer Handicap 10km is an annual fixture in the Harriers’ club calendar, but this year it was named in honour of Keith Midgley, who this year is celebrating 50 years of membership with the Halifax Harriers, having joined in 1967. Before setting off down to the Hebble Trail for the race start, Keith was presented with a commemorative club vest marking his fifty years from 1967-2017, which was warmly received as Keith got into the vest. He’s still running well and was taking part in the race, which sees runners set off in order of their personal best or predicted time, from slowest to fastest – a race open to all abilities, with the faster runners handicapped to ensure all have a fair chance to win. It makes for a competitive race, entirely in good spirit, and the added bonus of free pie and peas for all back at the clubhouse post-race.

Group photo before the race (taken from Halifax Harriers website)

I’d warmed up for this race by running a fast 5K on Saturday evening. For the first time in a stand-alone 5km, I clocked under 18 minutes, running in 17:54, seven seconds faster than my time earlier in the year at a club time trial. For the first time in a few weeks, I felt some genuine progress. I felt having lacked opportunities to go parkrunning lately or carry out some speedwork sessions outside of club training was harming my prospects of clocking at least a sub-37 minute time in London, but my 5K pace seems to be bang on and it did have me more optimistic as to how this Tuesday night might go.

Down at the race start, I waited as fellow runners were called forward in order of their predicted time downwards. I seemed to remember being on the third or fourth page of the list, which explains why twenty-one (21!) minutes after the first runners had set off, I left with Raymond’s words of ‘I don’t trust this guy, I don’t know what he’s going to do!‘ ringing in my ears. I felt 39 minutes was a safe estimate, given my last two 10km runs – one dating back to the Summer Handicap last year – both came in over 39 minutes, so I downplayed my expectations of getting close to that PB of 37:15. A 38:something time was more my expectation.

The Hebble Trail path was greasy from the rain earlier in the day. I went like the clappers but with an air of uncertainty I sensed a hesitancy about my gait and I tried to fleet foot down the trail. Soon, I would arrive at the bottom of Salterhebble, to navigate the crossing at the locks and the tricky cobbled section before the Calder-Hebble Navigation heads onto Sowerby Bridge. I started to catch some of a few of my club mates at this section of the race, but judging by the runners coming back the other way, I still had a lot of catching up to down, and this was around a kilometre, maybe more, before the turnaround at Sowerby Bridge.

The halfway point arrived, and I continued to motor on. By now there was a slight challenge of running past oncoming runners whom I’d already overtaken, but beyond here, I started to catch up with other runners ahead of me. I couldn’t tell if I was feeling the pace too much, with no watch to tell me if my pace was dropping. There was no discernable difference as far as I knew, my only measure now being the runners ahead. Running back past the village of Copley, I was now overtaking fellow club mates one by one but as the locks at Salterhebble drew into focus, I could still see a number of runners ahead. Back onto the Hebble Trail, I began the final push across the slight ascent back towards the start/finish.

It was on this stretch I caught up with Keith Midgley himself, still running well. As I passed, he told me ‘well done, now go for the win’. If I was tired at this point, those words felt like a shot in the arm. All I could do was to try and catch up with as many people as possible. I continued to pass runners one by one, and sensing the front was near, I put it a huge surge to overtake two runners as we reached the final corner. I turned, only to see more runners and the finish line ahead. I ran hard but the law of the handicap had spoken. All that mattered was the time. Over I went, hearing my time read out as 58:21. Immediately, I reached for my phone in my back pocket to end my tracking and check my real time. In actual fact, I’d clocked 37:21.

My fastest 10km run in over three years, and just six seconds below my personal best!

The post-race selfie

Realistically, I knew I was never going to win this race and so my main priority here was, more than anything else, to see how quickly I could do it. A time in the 38’s would have been great, but a 37:21 on a reasonably flat, occasionally technical course is stonking. All of a sudden, any doubts I had about improving my 10km time are firmly dispelled, and all without the aid of a watch as well. That time was the fastest out on the course out of all who took part. I seem to be really in tune with myself.

Looking back at my race stats, I ran the first 5K in 17:52, which means my latter half of the race went for 19:29 – something I have very little time to work on. Clearly I struggle to hold my early 5K pace for too long – my 17:54 the weekend before was far more consistent. Nonetheless, I have confidence that I will PB at my next race, the Regent’s Park 10km on July 23, given it ought to be a course free of cobbles, lock bridges, inclines and hopefully slightly warmer weather (but not too warm), which in turn should ensure a dry surface to run on. Plus, I’ll be starting equal in that race and with a good few hundred runners taking part, there will be plenty of runners ahead of me to try and cling onto as I pursue that time for dear life! The sub-35 I talked about a couple of months back is clearly too ambitious at this stage – I need to be able to at least run sub-18 in the second half to think I can get anywhere near that target. But a sub-37 minute time is certainly not out of the question.

Without question, club life is proving to be coming up roses every time right now, and I’m glad I finally took the decision to join a club, indeed the Halifax Harriers, the closest one to myself locally and without question improving my running ability in the space of a few weeks. Regular speed training has been great for my re-entry to the lower range of long distance running, and I’ve found after a few weeks of thinking getting back to 37 minute pace over 10km was going to be harder than I thought, in actual fact I’ve discovered I just had to settle back in to running hard, after a couple of years of only ever applying myself at the odd parkrun. So for that, I’ve got to thank the run leaders and fellow runners at the Harriers for pushing me from the get go to run harder, better and faster. 

This indeed is a race you cannot take part in unless you’re part of the club, or a paying guest. But as a format, the Summer Handicap is brilliant, and I certainly hope and expect many other clubs possess a race in the same style up and down the country. As it is, I’m quite happy to be a part of this race at this long standing, and quite awesome, athletics club.

To my fellow Harriers reading this, well done once again to all who took part, and thank you to all who volunteered in one way or another to support this great annual event. And congrats Keith on your big 50, here’s to many years of continued running!

Halifax Harriers AC online

Race Report – Hebden Bridge Fell Race 2017

Thursday June 1st, 2017
The Hebden Bridge Fell Race is the second of three fell races I’d earmarked for the year – four including Kilnsey, but that’s not happening now. Following my reasonable efforts in the Dick Hudson Fell Race on Ilkley Moor, I made it my intention to enter this race not just for the challenge, nor the experience, but to get back up that hill to visit the great black obelisk, Stoodley Pike, a site I visited on a walk in the summer of 2016 that really livened my spirit for journeying away from man and beast, if just for a few hours. Organised by the Todmorden Harriers, this race has attracted runners regionally and nationally since 2006, held on the first Thursday of each June and was now in its 11th consecutive year.

Unlike Ilkley, I didn’t get chance to recce the course – general life got in the way, and I found myself unable to commit to a morning or afternoon to navigate the course. Nonetheless, I had previously experienced the hills above the town on my adventures last year, so I had some background knowledge and was able to use my OS Map to study the course. I signed up a few days before the race without hesitation and for the first time was able to mark myself as a Halifax Harrier – although as a FRA (Fell Runners Association) race and not a UK Athletics race, the discount didn’t apply. £5 (or £6) is cheap as chips to enter a race, an attractive price for anyone from experienced runners to those new to the fells.

It was a gloriously sunny evening in Hebden Bridge, as evidenced by the blazing sunshine beaming down on Calder Holmes Park. I took the time to take in the sunshine, the River Calder, and head for a quick warm up jog out and back, clocking no more than half a mile. By 7:20pm, we were gathering the other side of the Station Road bridge, facing down where the start line was positioned.

The River Calder, Hebden Bridge, 01/06/2017

I did feel a sense of pride wearing my vest this particular evening – my first race not as an enthusiastic unattached runner, or as a charity runner – I was now part of a group. Although I’m fairly sure I only noticed one other Halifax vest, with many runners drawn from Todmorden (of course), the stripey Calder Valley Fell Runners, and there even seemed to be more Manchester Frontrunners in attendance. Nonetheless, I was on the start line, that’s what mattered.

Off we went. Immediately, something didn’t feel right. It seemed like nerves. Possibly because of the knee, but I got caught out by the pace of the start, and was overtaken on the inside by a good few runners. We then began the climb up through the woodland, which often bottlenecked and allowed for plenty of pauses to power walk and conserve energy. Once escaping the woodland, I seem to recall a narrow path which soon became a mix of flat and hilly sections, my speed at which quickened or slowed accordingly as I tried to traverse the terrain. My shoes weren’t helping – more than once I had to step to the side to tighten them as they didn’t seem to be supporting my heels so well – thankfully rectified by the halfway point – and so I struggled to maintain any real momentum, although I was gaining ground as the race ascended another level.

Before long, I was really starting to have problems climbing the terrain. I’m in tune with power walking and perfectly happy to use this method on a particularly steep hill, but as Stoodley Pike loomed ahead as to my right, I had very little power in my quads, and the result was an exhausted trudge to make the final metres to the top. Even on the final approach to Stoodley, I was struggling to maintain any momentum over what was really a perfectly surmountable hill. I mustered the strength to get to the top, touch the Pike itself and then head back, mercifully, down the hill again. At least now I could try and gather some momentum.

For the next mile or so, I seemed to go alright, occasionally interchanging places with other runners and making a fist of being competitive in the midfield. Towards the end though, my lack of experience started to show on the steeper sections, as foot placement on protruding roots became tricker, the inclines a little steeper, and I would have to cede one or two more places as the race returned through the woodland back to Calder Holmes Park.

To compound matters, there were one or two more roads which contained hills. Even after spending a long time coming down, I continued to struggle to ascend normally routine hills. It was similar to the Dovestone Edge run I did about 9 months ago – on that occasion I got to 13 miles before my quads gave up! Needless to say I felt pretty shattered, physically and psychologically by it all. Finally returning to the canal, I mustered one last hard effort to ensure I didn’t lose any more places. I crossed the line and promptly felt an overwhelming sense, not of accomplishment, but disappointment. A serious case of ‘that was fucking crap‘ overcame me, as I sat myself down on the deck. Not the race itself, but pretty much everything about how it went.

(I don’t often use curse words on my blog but that’s how I honestly assessed my performance. I wasn’t holding back!)

I took myself back to Machpelah, where I cleaned the mud off my legs (a bit), got changed into my Snowdonia Marathon t-shirt and opted to indulge in some fruit juice and ginger cake. I could have had a beer for £3, but what was there to celebrate really? I didn’t feel much like drinking alcohol, and even the slight surprise of finishing 35th (in a time of 54:53) did little to raise my spirits towards the race. I gladly made the short trip back to the train station before heading home. 

Had I written this in this immediate aftermath of the race, I could have come across far more negative than what I am about to say now. But I’ve had plenty time to reflect. I didn’t have a cracking night’s sleep beforehand, though I felt fine prior to the race. I don’t think the weather was a factor either – I felt warm but not hot, and at no point did I feel dehydrated. Maybe I paid the price a little bit for a recent lack of hill training – I spent a lot of time preparing for a fairly flat ultra marathon earlier in the year, and have only recently given hillier running again its full due. But ultimately, its my lack of experience in these races. I wasn’t expecting the earth in terms of a performance, but I at least always felt I could at least excel myself in these types of races. Instead, it seemed I had finally found something that’s not quite my forte – and indeed, finding my body had reached a limit that basically said ‘no’, and tried to hold me back again and again. And initially I found that to assess my performance as such. I realise I’m being overly harsh. I can more appropriately say it was a chastening experience, one which I hadn’t possibly foreseen but one which maybe I should. Brighouse has nothing you could class as a fell – a few hilly trails, but nothing more. A trip to Stoodley, or Ilkley Moor is a day trip to me. For some more localised runners, this is their bread and butter. I could just jack it in and argue I’ll never have a chance.

But that belies my own competitive spirit. I’ve not experienced a DNF yet. Or even a DNS. Even when I’ve struggled, I’ve found a way to finish. Even when I’ve got lost, or taken a wrong turn during a race, I’ve fought tooth and nail to make up the ground. And here, I took on one of Calderdale’s toughest races, and lived to tell you I was bloody awful, and still finished.

So I may well sack the Stoodley Pike 5K next month and instead redouble my efforts to get race ready for the Regent’s Park 10km later in July. I shouldn’t be lugging myself up a great big hill just for the experience when my chief focus is elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean I should ditch fell racing. Simply make sure I get out there, get some experience, build up my core strength, do my recce if I can, and take a look at the most appropriate challenges out there. I shouldn’t ever expect myself to win one of these things. All I want is to be competitive on the day. But I realise that everyone has an off day, everyone has a bad race in them, and mine just happened to be this one. There’s no time to sit around complaining, because my next race, The Drop Summer Sizzler, is right around the corner. Or at least it was, til it got cancelled due to low sales. But more on that another time.

A big thank you to the Todmorden Harriers and everyone who volunteered, marshalled and flagged out the course. 

Race info + results

Race Report: The Dick Hudson’s Fell Race 2017

Its Thursday 27th April, 2017, 5:32pm. I’m on a train to Ilkley. My rest vest is absolutely crammed. The bladder pocket is being used for clothing storage. I’m balancing a hot cup of black tea beneath my feet, and I’m trying to fold my waterproof jacket down enough to fit in the vest. I’m slightly stressed. I’m on my way to a race. On a Thursday evening.

What fresh hell is this?!

Call it an initiation of sorts. Today is my first ever fell race. Arguably, my second in fact – (Wo)Man vs Barge is described as a trail race by definition, but it involves a bit of scrambling, some fast descents and its very rocky in parts. I digress. This by definition is a fell race. The Dick Hudson, organised by the Wharfedale Harriers, is an annual fell race named after the boozer located at the foot of Bingley Moor, the halfway point of the race. The race starts at the barrier at White Wells, near the foot of Ilkley Moor, and is a loose 7 mile climb up and over Ilkley Moor & Bingley Moor, and then back again. It started in 2009, I believe, a spiritual successor of sorts to a long held race walking event which used to run (or walk) from Bradford to Dick Hudson’s until 2008, when it fell foul of stringent road safety regulations (there’s an excellent piece on that race here).

Registration took place beside a campervan and a small square table outside with pens and safety pins. Where there wasn’t room at the table, runners were using nearby signs to fill out the required entry form. 

I had turned up nice and early after my initially stressful journey. I got my race number pinned to my shorts, and left my race vest in the campervan, taking only my waterproof jacket, and the whistle I purchased earlier in the day just in case a kit check took place. Yep, I’d packed a small portion of my house (or so it felt), and in the end didn’t need most of it. Well, rules are rules, its for your own safety so its better to pay attention and not risk your place. Race vest deposited, I warmed up with a nice little jog up and around the moor. I got as far as the stone staircase I’d climbed twice prior to today, and I couldn’t see a clear path around it. Well, damn. I guess I’m going to have to do some scrambling. 

Looking up from the race start
Watching the clouds roll in

The clouds were ominously gathering. The race director had warned of rain around 8pm, yet it threatened to arrive sooner. I jogged back down the hill and started doing my warm up. I was recognised by another runner, Matt, who remembered me from my posts about the Leeds Liverpool Canal Canter on the Facebook group Running The World. We had a quick chat pre race, before the runners – gathered from all the local clubs – Wharfedale, Horsforth Fellandale, Hyde Park Harriers, Otley AC, etc – began to walk up to just past the barrier, almost a rolling start. The race director gave brief final instructions, a quick countdown and we were away.

Within the first 200 metres, lead runners began to peel off to the right and up a grassy knoll. Around another corner, several runners took an almost hairpin turn and took another path away from the gravel trail. There were a few of us, myself included, who continued past White Wells, and onwards to the stone stairs. There was a cyclist amongst this pack – cyclists are indeed invited to partake in this event – carrying the bike over one shoulder, scaling the staircase with relative ease. Even then, I wasn’t yet at the top of the moo – there were a couple more ups and downs before reaching Ilkley Crags, and I had to step aside to let the cyclist through – he was breathing down my neck for a good couple of minutes – but finally, I got onto the top, and found my stride. I had to place my feet ever so carefully at a split second’s notice, bounding over rocks, mounds and muddy, occasionally watery moorland. 

The halfway point – the gate by the Dick Hudson’s pub – beckoned. A good few of the leading runners had gone through on their way back by this point, and the descent down to the gate was completed. A man was taking race numbers down as they arrived. I’m sure he said to me ‘on your shirt next time please‘. I can’t understand why, if that really was what he said, wearing my race number on my shorts was a problem. Still, I wasn’t the only runner to pin my race number to my shorts, so I felt slightly reassured that one or two others might get a bollocking too. Anywho, it was a steep climb back up, before beginning the crossing back up Bingley Moor. Arguably, this was the sting in the tail – a much more gradual climb on the way back, and somewhat more energy sapping. I really wasn’t feeling competitive, an unusual feeling as even when just running for the craic, I have even a slight urge to max out my effort.

Arriving back at Ilkley Crags, the runners immediately ahead of me veered to the left. I continued back the way I came. I figured I was going to try and see if I could actually gain a few places. I got to the steps as fast as I could, and nervously scrambled down. Finally hitting reasonably flat ground, I floored it.

Credit: David Haygarth. Cracking photo

The last kilometre is extremely quick downhill – and I could actually see I had ground ahead of at least one or two who’d gone the other way, still navigating the descent back towards the finish. I put on a good sprint finish and crossed the line in a time of 57:12 – good enough for 43rd overall.

Looking rather chipper post-race

This is the first of four fell races I had lined up, with Hebden Bridge up next in June. I felt a bit battered after this race, owing to my freak rib injury which left me feeling like I’d taken a punch to the kidneys or something. It did have me wondering whether or not I really enjoyed the prospect of running up a really steep hill to come back down it again, although the Dick Hudson is much more than that. However, I woke up the next day feeling fine, and so any doubts I had have subsided. I genuinely enjoyed the race, which I set out to do really just for the experience, though it was something to see my competitive urges seemingly disappear during the race, only to reappear near the end. Ultimately, I’m realistic to know that I was never going to match my recent excellent results (5th, 3rd, 2nd, and a 1st at a parkrun) racing a different animal altogether, and as long as it doesn’t interfere too much with my training for my fast 10km attempt in London in July, I truly can’t see any reason not to come back for more at Hebden Bridge in around four weeks’ time, because this running up big hills lark is actually quite fun. If that’s your bag, that is.

Once again, a big shout for the Wharfedale Harriers for putting on a cracking little race that makes the most of Ilkley Moor’s beauty and indeed its tough, brutal ascendancy. Only £4 to enter as well – no medal, no t-shirt, no goody bag – just pure running and well worth it. Thank you to all who volunteered to marshal/assist on the day. And well done all who took part. It was good to see everyone got back in one piece. , and indeed for those looking for a new challenge, this is a race you may wish to consider, if you can make it on a work/school night.

Dick Hudson’s Event Page/Results

Race Report: Leeds-Liverpool Canal Canter 2017

Saturday 11th March, 2017

Whether its a sign of ever advancing years, booking my place only fourteen weeks before race day, or simply looking forward to it, the date of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Canter seemed to arrive suddenly. It really didn’t matter how prepared I was, how well I’d slept, or how calm I felt. Waking up on this day – I knew exactly what day itself, and what I was about to get myself into. And yet, on this, my twentieth race (yes, I keep count), I felt a near effortless calm. I knew I had to stretch my feet, get a shower, pack the remainder of my hydration pack, eat my porridge, get dressed, teeth brushed, and ready to exit the house. I was effectively preparing for a commute. Something I do every day as part of my job.

And just like Monday to Friday, anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Upon setting off I learned my train was 13 minutes late due to ‘waiting for a train crew member’. I was almost alone on the edge of the town centre, ranting and raving about this ‘fucking typical’ development. By 7:15am, it had grown to 18 minutes late. Whoever this member of the crew was hopefully had some explaining to do, because its bad enough when its you, as a work commuter, having to explain Northern Rail’s inability to run their service punctually. And they were supposed to be striking the Monday after! Thank goodness for the MCard, a monthly pass that allows travel within certain rail zones and all countywide buses. I got an alternative train to Mirfield and from there, got a service into Leeds for 8:05am. Still leaving enough time to go break my own strike (caffeine), get some cash out, and go find my train to Headingley.

I’ve never been to Headingley before, and it felt odd as I left the station to drop down into Kirkstall. I checked the map afterwards – its roughly halfway between the cricket ground and Kirkstall itself. The race HQ was the Leeds Postal Sports Association club, on Beecroft Street. Upon finding it, it seemed all it served was to sort out what I was carrying and to go for a quick pitstop. The collection of race numbers was actually down on the towpath.I got down there, got my number and quickly pinned it to my vest. I was ready to warm up.

Before the start

I had a quick jog westward along the canal, as far as the next bridge, and back again. I gathered along with the numerous runners, all running different distances, for the race briefing. The start of the race was a little confusing. 5K and ultra runners were going east towards Leeds, the rest from the other side of the nearby canal bridge on the 10K, half and full marathon routes. There was a bit of a delay while the race starter made their way to the top of Kirkstall Bridge. The westward runners seemed slightly organised, but the 5K and the ultra runners weren’t really in any sort of pack. I was stood there chatting with the other ultra runners, when after a few minutes there was a countdown and a horn to set runners off. I thought this was just for the runners heading west, but I turned around to see my fellow ultra competitors setting off. I quickly got my act together and was away.

I was quickly into second place, the lead runner around 15 seconds ahead. It was tempting to try and chase him down, but this was going to be a long day. Better to just focus on my own race. I found myself clocking 7:35 mile pace early on. This was a lot quicker than I had plotted in training. I felt I needed to slow down, but it was difficult. I didn’t even feel I was pushing that hard. It seemed effortless. Clearly I was on race pace, as race day preparation will seem to do for you, and I resolved just to stick to the plan of walk breaks every hour, nutrition every half hour.

I declined water at the first aid station, three miles into the run at its furthest point east, near Granary Wharf in Leeds. I turned back and kept on with my current pace. It had settled more at 7:45-7:50, which still seemed quick, but I was comfortable. Four miles was the first swig of High5 Zero drink. After just over six miles I was back past the start/finish area in Kirkstall, and heading onwards towards perhaps the most scenic part of the course, between Bramley and Esholt. I reached the hour mark somewhere just after Bramley, if memory serves me right. I had a SiS energy bar and some more energy drink. I walked for two and a half minutes, and my eighth mile went for 8:38. I did up my pace prior to walking, but even so, that’s a quick mile for spending a fifth, maybe slightly less, at a much slower pace. A marathon runner overtook me at this point, but I was past them again having resumed my rhythm. I was now running along the path where I’d run with Ben Smith and the Horsforth Harriers during his 401 Challenge. Part of the race’s appeal lies here for me – the countryside surrounding the canal, and the neighbouring River Aire, is really at its most stunning – green fields, waterfalls, wide open space – it is quite something to behold.

I reached 13.1 miles in around 1:35, and by the time I reached my second walk, I’d reached around 15 miles. I didn’t feel to be far off sub-4 hour pace for the distance, which would really be something. The walk breaks would likely put paid to that, but the time really wasn’t any concern to me. I just wanted to make sure I got to the end. By now I was tucking into oranges, and narrowly avoiding a rather angry, hissing goose as the race moved towards Saltaire. The lead runner was on his way back into the second half of the run. By the time I reached the aid station in Saltaire, I estimated I was about five minutes behind. I sensed he might be tiring, so this gave me a bit of impetus to put a bit more effort in. I wasn’t expecting to catch him, but I could certainly consolidate my position.

In the end, I wasn’t running any faster – just running confidently and consistently well each mile. Each of my miles between 16 and 23 went for sub-8, and I really felt like things were going to plan. The malt loaf at 2:30:00 kept me going, I was cooling off with water at aid stations, and though I hadn’t seemed to gain any real ground, I felt I was putting in some distance on those behind me. 

I should mention, at this point, that it was great to receive a lot of compliments from runners coming the opposite way, and likewise, it was great to give some encouragement back. I even got a high five before halfway from one of the marathon runners, who was going at a fair oldprice pace. I was particularly heartened to see a ‘joggler’ out on course – that being to run while juggling. Of course. All while wearing a tiger mask. Civility is brilliant!

The three hour mark brought a slightly extended walk break of three minutes. I’ll be honest, that shift I put in did take some out of my quads. I took on a couple of caffeine gels, and then around twenty minutes later, took on an electrolyte gel. I felt tired below the waist, but I felt slightly energised and crucially, alert and focused. It was on towards Kirkstall again, to bring up the 26.2. ‘Congratulations‘, I thought to myself. ‘You’re now an ultra runner‘. One lady near the start/finish line was clapping my effort.I joked to her ‘the real race starts now!‘. And in one way, I suppose it did. Because the six miles that remained were going to determine whether I had the stamina to try and catch the leader. It would turn out I didn’t – I had to stop and walk once or twice to take on a bit of water, but I would get back into my running. I was a little slower on the climbs, and now clocking 8:25 mile pace. One foot in front of the other, that’s what was needed. At this point though, Leeds felt so far away. Its easy to just want something to appear, like you’re desperate to see the end. I had to stay positive.

Coming into Leeds, the leader passed me again. He was still looking good. By the time I’d reached the turning point, grabbing a segment of chocolate orange and a few sweets, I estimated I was about three to four minutes behind. A slight gain, but I really didn’t feel I had it in me to chase him down. And so it would prove. I was starting to walk on the climbs, trying to conserve energy to reach the end. I did see the third place runner, and by now I was heading back through Armley. That must have meant I was a considerable distance ahead, but I refused to rest on my laurels and by no means did I decide it was job done. Mile 31 went for 9:16 – my slowest of the entire race. But that was largely due to saving myself on the hills. I still had running in my legs on the flat.

I was a mix of sheer awe at the fact I was still running, and tired impatience at not being able to see the gazebo to signify the finish line as I turned each corner. Mile 32 came up at 8:46 – a sub-9 mile. Absolutely super at this stage. Finally, about a quarter of a mile later, I turned the corner and saw the finish line in the distance. I pumped my fist in the air and suddenly I felt a renewed wave of energy in my lower limbs. I powered towards the line and finished strongly. I absolutely knew it, and it would be confirmed.

Second place, second male, at the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Canter ultra! My official time: 4:21:45.

I can’t say I was surprised, purely because I knew what position I was in the whole time. But without question, I had achieved the best result of my running career, eclipsing the third place finishes at Blackpool Beach 10K Run in 2014, and the Sir Titus Trot half marathon just six weeks prior. If I wasn’t feeling absolutely physically destroyed, I’d have said I couldn’t quite believe how well my 2017 was turning out results wise. 

I stuck around for a bit afterwards and got talking to the winner of the ultra. We shook hands and it was great to talk. He was also doing his first ultra and he thought I was going to catch him. I honestly told him when I saw him on the way back from Leeds I just had nothing left to chase. The feeling of mutual respect was great and we could both agree we’d taken part in a great race. I got talking to a few other competitors too, all while looking longingly at the amazing homemade cakes, all of which I felt too queasy from all the sweet stuff I’d eaten during the race to actually muster. I felt like I had pins and needles all over for a short time, and I was ever so careful trying to stretch my muscles. Nothing could take away from what a brilliant day I’d had though.

The finishers medal
The trophy – the second one of the year!

A lot of complimentary congratulations came my way on social media – it seems to go that way every time I excel myself. Its just amazing to be part of a community online that gives that kind of support and to be able to celebrate others’ achievements as well. My own Facebook wall was going pretty crazy too, and even into Monday I was still getting congrats from fellow runners, family, friends and work colleagues.
Where does this leave me now? Well, I absolutely want to run another ultra marathon, but it won’t be immediately and perhaps not even this year. My spring/summer seems to be lined up with a mix of potential trail and fell races, as well as The Drop (the race with no navigational aids or GPS allowed whatsoever), and potentially a 10K race in London. I do have desires to run a half marathon somewhere though and I readily have my eye on another Its Grim Up North Running event – the Kirkstall Trail Running Festival in November, where I intend to run the marathon. Quite simply, I want to race a little more this year and I’ve now got plenty options locally to look ahead to.

For now though, I’m taking a well-earned break for at least a couple of weeks and I’m going to try and let my body recover. I have a sneaky feeling of undiagnosed tendinitis below my left ankle which flared up five weeks before this race. Its not been severe at all, but to keep on track this year I’m going to want to make sure I absolutely time my comeback carefully and do the necessary work to nurse it back to full fitness. I want to run without thinking I’m going to need paracetamol to get through, or ibuprofen or heat rub to take the shine off afterwards.

All in all though, the biggest takeaway about my body from this race is just how well prepared I seemed to get myself. To actually still have the energy to run 32 miles shows I struck a good nutritional balance, paced myself well, learned when to hold back and when to push. My body absolutely came through for me on the day, and that gives me all the confidence I need to say that, if I’m healthy, why not take on another ultra? Why not try and run further? Why not see if you can go one better?

Once again, a big thanks to Cath and Di at Its Grim Up North Running for putting on a great event, set on a canal steeped in rich countryside and industrial heritage. A huge thank you to all the volunteers and a big well done to everyone who took part across all five distances. The race itself is an ideal first ultra for anyone looking to make the step up, and if you’re interested in this race, you don’t have to wait too long – a summer edition is also open for entry, apparently – though I can’t find the link right now. Did I mention free homemade cake?

And as for 2017. Wow, where to next?!

Its Grim Up North Running
Full race results

Race Review: The Sir Titus Trot

Saturday 28th January, 2017

It had been one week since the fall. The week before, I fell on my knee on a boozy night out with my family. I don’t remember the taxi ride home or entering my house. All I know is that I woke up on my sofa the morning after, still in my clothes, with a sore knee, a bruised foot, bruised rib and grazed elbow. That night, I ran 15 miles. I continued my running on Tuesday and Thursday and it seemed I was relying a little on paracetamol to not encounter any problems. Waking up on Saturday, race day, and feeling there had been no improvement in the situation, I wondered if I was denying myself the possible predicament I was either in, or getting myself into. It felt a bit like I was hurrying myself into a bit of a quandary.

I’d already decided I was going to take part in this race, the Sir Titus Trot (half marathon), come hell or high water, and I’d gone from a position of wondering if I could push for my PB on a relatively flat course to just seeing how it goes and to enjoy the experience. It’d been a long couple of years since I pretty much smashed my sub-1:25 target, and my focus had been less on speed and more on pacing, and setting tougher challenges for myself. The only speedwork I’ve done lately is hill sprints, so in hindsight, I felt I was asking too much of myself to tear things up on this occasion. Not withstanding the fact I was feeling pretty rough the morning of the race, prior to bathing, eating breakfast and getting my clobber together. 

As for the race itself…I’d never been to Saltaire before. I once went to its larger, neighbouring town Shipley many moons ago, but the village itself? Not until now. It was created in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, an industrialist who wanted to concentrate his textile manufacture in one place, using land purchased three miles west of Shipley, next to the River Aire and the Leeds Liverpool Canal. The village’s name is a play on Sir Titus’ name and that of the river. (Cheers Wikipedia).

Stepping off the bus, I headed down to Victoria Hall to get registered for the race. Registration was in a small, square room, queued left to right for the 5K, 10K, half and full marathons respectively. After pinning my race number to my shorts, and changing my shirt – I dropped toothpaste on my original choice – I decided to nip out to a nearby sandwich shop to end my caffeine abstinence. I’d only spent five days off the stuff though, so the black tea I had today was nowhere near the wide-eyed effect it had back in Llanberis a few months earlier. Nonetheless, I went back to the Victoria Hall to get a gel out of my bag, put it into my jacket, drop my cash back in there and then to head down to the race start/finish area, where I warmed up, carried out a brief out and back one way and met Shaun, another runner I’d briefly conversed with about the race online.

I realised at the start line that everyone had brought their bags down to the shelter under the bridge by the start/finish line. Realising I’d left my bag back in the hall roughly five minutes before the start wasn’t ideal, but I did get a marshal’s attention and he kindly called to one of the organisers to bring it down on their way to the canal. Minor panic over.

The race briefing took place around the shelter as runners and marshals huddled around the canal as the odd non-entrant runner, dog walker, etc. tried to squeeze past the throng, and though the race starter gave the instructions, they seemed largely inaudible by the end as the group, aided by the echo of the underpass, gave the effect of a group of schoolchildren grinning to the point where the briefing might as well have been nonsense. Well, what we did know is that there would be 3.5 miles towards Leeds, back to the start and onwards in the direction of Skipton for another 3 miles or so, and then back again. That was for the half marathoners. The 5K and 10K entrants would have turned around and finished before that point, and the marathoners were headed roughly 10 miles beyond the start/finish towards Skipton before turning back. And marshals/water stations were only at the turnaround points, such was the nature of the course – a towpath on which it would be impossible (even for myself) to get lost on.

The countdown commenced, and we were on our way, amidst the bleeps and bloops of watches starting. This quickly turned to the squelching of mud and the splash of feet entering puddles. As everyone started at the same time, in the same direction, it was hard to tell who exactly was running which distance. One or two had set off at a rapid pace, so they surely must have been doing one of the shorter distances. Meanwhile, I noticed my watch was giving me a reading of 6:20 mile pace. At this point, it seemed effortless, but more to the point, my right knee, the source of so much consternation, wasn’t grumbling, tweaking or complaining at all. It actually felt OK. So after a first mile of 6:18, even in completely the wrong shoes for the terrain, I decided I’d keep it up.

The race had begun to string out by the second turnaround point (the first being 1.5 miles in for the 5K), and I’d kept to roughly 6:15-6:30 mile pace. I’d caught up, almost, with a male runner in a navy vest (whom I now know was a Baildon Runner). He was running with a long, purposeful stride, as opposed to my quicker, but shorter cadence. At the turnaround, he seemed to hesitate at the water station. This is where I actually tried tactics. He was only a few seconds ahead, and knowing I was well hydrated, I didn’t give it a glance and began to push on. I got onto the man’s shoulder as other runners continued to come past, a mix of 10K, half and marathon entrants. This continued for the best part of a mile and finally I put in a surge to go past him, and now it was my turn to put in a bit if work. Just as I had in Liversedge two years ago, I wanted to time my gel consumption for just after the 5th mile. I had felt it gave me a slight boost in that PB effort to keep up my pace levels right to the end. Whether it would work here, on an overall flatter course, would remain to be seen. So I ceded the place back, took the gel, but remained in contact.

The halfway point in the race seemed to take forever to arrive. We passed 6.5 miles, according to the watch, and the gazebo still wasn’t in sight. It was much closer to 7 miles by the time we passed it. At this point, I seem to remember going by the Baildon man again, as I was starting to gain on another man, this one wearing a Bingley Harriers shirt. I was tailing this runner for a while, then as we went under another bridge, I heard footsteps rapidly gaining. The Baildon Runner had put in a bit of a surge to catch up and the three of us were now switching places. This was exciting stuff, but I’d no idea whether I was jockeying for the lead, or if this was for one of the other ‘podium’ places. We’d soon be broken up. The Bingley runner had to stop momentarily to re-tie a shoelace. Then the race’s two steep hills, the Three Rise Locks, and a bit further on, the more demanding Five Rise Locks. The latter in particular is absolutely magnificent to look at, an amazing work of human industry, but the hill, though short, seemed very steep. My recent hill sprint training steadied me well, but I lost a bit of pace, and the navy runner was starting to get away. I recorded a 7:03 mile for that lap – the only time I recorded a single mile over 7 minutes the whole race.

As I started to approach the final turnaround, near Crossflatts, a man in a Horsforth Harriers vest ran past in the opposite direction. Clearly he was the leader, so there was no pressure there. I could live with that. A couple of minutes later, the Baildon Runner I had duelled with earlier also came past, his stride pattern clearly paying dividends by now. I was next up. I now knew I was third. A position I’m familiar with on a local level, but could I keep hold of it? I took a jelly baby and a cup of water, and tried my best to take sips of it. The Bingley runner was around 20-30 seconds behind. Knowing this, I tried to lift my pace, the demands of the effort now starting to ask questions of me. My knee, incredibly, was still feeling good. Clearly the combination of the paracetamol on the bus ride and the black tea had done wonders there, along with a proper warm up of course.

The last three miles were a heavy mix of pleasure, grit and ‘when will it end?’ The runners still coming the other way were giving plenty of encouragement and I was more than happy to return it. I nearly stumbled at the bottom of Five Rise Locks but kept my footing and used the brief descents to inject a bit of pace. I recorded 6:41 and 6:33 for mile 11 and 12, but I was definitely finding it harder to keep up to my earlier levels. Add to that being told I still had a couple of miles to go at around 11.75 miles in, I was getting desperate to see the finish. I refused to look back, apart from the solitary bridge crossing, which was more a cursory glance. I didn’t spot the blue of the Bingley Harrier, so I just knuckled down, really hoping to see the finish soon in the misty conditions.

Mile 13 came up at 6:52, according to my watch. I finally switched from pace/distance to time/distance, and remember seeing 1:25:something. Nowhere near my PB, but then I had lowered my expectations, and all I had to do now was keep going. The Baildon Runner only vaguely visible in the distance, a very much distant and impossible target. But then I saw the finish. I lifted the knees one more time, and the noise grew louder as the finish neared. Finally I was home. I turned around, and sure enough, I was third. To my complete surprise, I even got a trophy for 3rd male! And a fetching medal of Sir Titus himself too. There was cake at the finish as well, which I was tucking into as the Bingley Harrier arrived home. We got talking to one another at the end, along with the Baildon runner, looking back on what had been a quite incredible race experience.

I was hugely proud of my result – I had hoped to go a little faster, but I can say a lesser focus on speedwork recently has perhaps dulled my edge a little, plus the course didn’t have quite as many steep drops as the Liversedge Half Marathon, where I set my PB of 1:22:41.

I hung around a bit at the finish, and checked out my goodie bag, which contained a bottle of beer and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange! I elected not to risk my knee further with a recovery run into Bradford, even though I still wasn’t feeling any issues with it at the time. I deemed it better to go and change my socks, and get myself on the two bus journeys towards home. I forgot a pair of jeans, so I went home, as one does, still with my race number attached to my shorts, and lurid green compression socks!

This was my first time running the Sir Titus Trot, which was only established by It’s Grim Up North Running last year, and I must say its a cracking little race. The rather dank weather made the race that little more exciting in the end, and being able to run near the front end of the race, especially the tactical mini battles during the middle of the race. The extra distance was only a minor issue, and was explained by the decision to move the start under a bridge to shelter from the rain, meaning the start/finish line was moved. The route itself is beautiful. Granted, this particular day wasn’t the best one for it, but its a well maintained canal and the Five Rise Locks are a stunning feature of the course. There’s not a great barrier to entry, apart from the small field size – the course is mostly flat, bar a couple of sizable climbs which you have to come down again (if doing the marathon or the half). And the weather on the day made it even more exciting! Do go check out It’s Grim Up North Running online, they have many great races across Yorkshire and parts of north England, and all competitively priced, and not oversubscribed either – only 140 runners took part in this race overall. A great addition to the local running scene, and superbly organised too..

And now as I recover from the combination of those injuries, and a chest infection to boot, I can proudly look back upon my best race result for nearly three years! A cracking way to begin the year.

Full race results

Its Grim Up North Running

I’d like to finish that my run this past weekend was dedicated to Sue Brabbins. Sue was a runner and a popular member of the Facebook group ‘Running the World’, and raised thousands for charity through running. Sue was diagnosed with a terminal Glioblastoma Multiforme Grade 4 brain tumour. She had previously defeated two separate tumours and had continued to run and fundraise prior to her diagnosis with the fatal tumour in 2015. Her defiant positivity in the face of her illnesses endeared her more to the group, which currently encompasses 19,000 members. Sue died in 2016, but she left a lasting impression on many people and this weekend was the group’s ‘Sue Brabbins Race Weekend’ in her memory. Her husband Paul is now trying to raise £2,000 for Brain Tumour Research to help fund future research into these illnesses.

If you’d like to leave a donation or read more about Paul’s cause, please visit the JustGiving page here.


It was a privilege to be part of such an occasion among the running community, and I’m proud I delivered a cracking result. Thank you to Paul, and Tony & Anne Bennett for putting all this together and making this a weekend where we, as individuals and as a community, could all celebrate Sue’s life and legacy in our own way.

Race Report: The Great Yorkshire Pieathlon 2016

Sunday December 11th, 2016

The Great Yorkshire Pieathlon is now a firm favourite in the end-of-year race calendar. Having been forced to miss the event in 2013 and 2014 through a combination of lack of money, and injury, 2015 was the year where I finally put my finger in the pie, dipped my toe in the mud and saw for myself the glory beholden. My mate Jordan and I ran relatively undertrained, but well enough to finish reasonably well and having consumed about half our bodyweight in pie. The hordes who run in fancy dress  no doubt contribute to the fun, Christmassy aspect of this race, not least of all for the prospect of having to tackle the race’s infamous Bog of Doom, an unavoidable stretch of mud that has ruined many a suit and claimed many a shoe.

I was lucky enough to win my entry to the race at the start of this year, when I was randomly selected just for liking a post on Facebook, starting off a year where I’ve been lucky enough to win a three boxes of TREK bars, and most recently, some calf sleeves via Running Heroes. If that translated to Irish Lottery wins, I’d be at least a grand up by now! But I digress. This turned out to be a neatly placed end of year event and a good way to ease back into schedule after the Snowdonia Marathon.

Jordan didn’t sign up this year, and I didn’t feel I could splash out on a decent fancy dress costume – we had the idea that Jordan and I could recreate a hungry man chasing after the other, dressed as a pie. Alas, on my own, I opted to just enjoy the race while running it as hard as I could. Besides, some of the outfits on display were amazing. Like this guy, carrying a full size artificial Christmas  tree with a frame on his shoulders. Magnificent.

Cue the start, a very windy day indeed at Salendine Nook High School, which nearly took down the inflatable arch, but with a bit of willpower from Wane, the organiser from Team OA, it stood upright and soon enough, we were off, down the school’s football pitches and through the gate to Longwood Edge Road. I soon made my way up to third, and for a while I tracked the two lads in front along to the end of the road, and down the steep Shaw Lane. All was going to plan at first, and as we arrived at the first pie station, I quickly nipped in, like someone who’s done this before, and briefly jumped into second, although I was overtaken again. Then, I bit into the porkpie. Ugh, it was dry. And by dry, I mean claggy. It wouldn’t go down at all, and as we ventured up ‘One Pie Hill’, which crosses a golf course, I had to stop just to swallow a bit and take another bite.

Over the stile I went, the front two still visible. I kept an eye on my footing but suddenly, it went from underneath me and ‘thud’. I landed fairly flat, arms outstretched to break my fall. As far as falls go, it was a pretty good one. I got up and got on with it. At this point I struggled for a bit, and found myself wandering slightly off the track a little – not by much, but enough that allowed a few others to catch up, and I dropped from third to sixth. Still, I was doing my level best to enjoy it, as the race took another sharp descent, this time down Hollin Hall Lane, as the race neared the infamous ‘Bog of Doom’. A left turn, over a stile and onwards. Another runner in front took a tumble, and there wasn’t too much distance up to the runners ahead. There was the bog. The photographers, marshals and a few supporters were gathered ‘Go on Peter, straight through it!’ yelled one lady who I might have recognised. I don’t know why I moved slightly to the right – perhaps I thought it looked slightly less boggy. Oh well, splodge SPLODGE. Tackled like a demon. With a thumbs up to those gathered, I went past the chef, who’d made his way to the bog for the ensuing hilarity, and started to head for the road section.

Here is my one and only race photo. I don’t like it, I don’t look to be enjoying myself and why my arm is up in the air like that, I don’t know! I was still having a good time, I assure you.

Over a stile, over the cattle grid, past another pie station. I picked up, and dropped, another porkpie. Not only that, I actually knocked over a full tray of porkpies as I grasped to catch the falling pastry. Apologetic, I tried to chase down the three men ahead. I got past one of them, a dreadlocked Santa Claus, but it would soon be the devilishly tough ascent up Dodlee Lane. I wasn’t too far behind, but the cobbled nature of the hill is punishing, and I had to walk a little. Eventually, still trying to gnash the now gritty pie, I plundered along to Edge Terrace, another steep, angled climb, partly walked, mostly run, I finally reached the top and clambered through the gate. My calf muscles were aching. I opted not to go for the sprint finish, reigning in my competitive instincts and indeed, preserving my energy, and took it steadily all the way to the finish.
Two porkpies, both of which I couldn’t finish, one fall, one bloodied knee, and fifth place overall, in 32:34. An improvement on last year, but largely insignificant really in an event such as this.

I stopped around at the finish, talking to some of the other runners about the race, the hills, the Bog, and those claggy pies, before heading off to clean my shoes. Inside, it felt a bit sparse. Pie-Eck, the wonderful company who turned up last year, weren’t about with their Yorkshire-themed pies, but there were complimentary mince pies for the runners at the end – how I wish I’d grabbed one of those out on course! And I was able to clean up my knee, although in reality it was a minor graze and nothing to worry about. And unfortunately, it appeared the school were fixing the shower area up, so I wasn’t able to clean my legs, or my arms for that matter. I couldn’t complain too much though. I was very grateful to have won my entry to this race, and so I was happy just to have enjoyed the race, the people in fancy dress, and everything that came with it. I’ve never fallen over in a race before, but I really don’t mind – it was nothing serious and it was all part of the fun.

The organisers have confirmed a new catering company are in place for 2017, which should hopefully result in the return of those love, rich, gravy-laden pies. But nonetheless, even though it was quite as indulgent as the year before, this was still a fabulous event, one ideally better suited if you’re running with friends or family members, and ideally, the dafter, the better. And even if you do take it semi-seriously, as I did this time, you can expect a thorough examination of your hill strength, and indeed your penchant for pie. And the race finisher t-shirt this year was just sums up what we all really think about running!

A big thanks to the race organisers for my prize entry, and to the organisers, photographers and volunteers for all their help on the day.

Entry for the 2017 Pieathlon is now open. Simply head here if you fancy a slice.

2016 results

2016 photo gallery